Beach of hearts (La bànque au tchoeurs)
As a young girl, I can’t have been more than nine or ten years old, I used to love sitting in my gran’s kitchen. It was always warm and cosy, and there was always the smell of an apple pie baking or a roast in the oven.
Apart from being a very good cook, my Gran was also a wonderful story-teller, with scary tales about old Guernsey witches, and magical places, and I absolutely loved listening to her. Her voice would be flowing like a song, as it was getting dark outside, and I was enjoying a cup of hot cocoa and eating her homemade cookies.
One of her favourite stories (and mine), was about lost love. It gripped me and I would insist she tell it to me again and again. It went something like this:
“A long, long, time ago, a young girl, from the Guernsey parish of Torteval, fell in love with a handsome young fisherman from the parish of the Vale. But in those days, it was not customary to date anyone outside of your own parish and the girl’s parents soon told her that she was not allowed to see her boyfriend anymore.”
But you know, ‘ma ptite fille’ (my little one), my gran would say, true love is like the tide rolling in, you cannot ever stop it. That’s why your pop and I are still together. She would look at me and smile, her eyes twinkling . .
Please tell the story gran!
“The couple decided that the only way to stay together was to elope to the mainland, get married and build a new life, away from their overbearing parents and island restrictions. For months and months they planned, putting all their savings together and buying tickets for the passage on the mail boat to England.
On a cold morning in early February, the day before their planned escape, the young boy visited his love and gave her a bracelet with a small heart shaped charm, made of gold. “Keep this with you” he said, “I love you and will be back tonight”. After that, he went to join the crew of the fishing boat for a last day at sea.
It was just getting light as they hoisted the sails and left the harbour at Bordeaux. A north westerly wind was picking up, with a strong swell, but the skipper was happy to go and the crew, including our young friend were looking forward to an abundant catch.
Meanwhile, the girl was quietly packing her small bag, nervous and excited, but ready for the adventures of the next day – the first day of their new lives together. Looking out to sea, she noticed the wind was really gathering strength, with the trees bending and rain clouds rolling in over the water, which by now was looking almost black.
As evening came, the storm had reached gale force. She went down to the harbour and waited for the boat to return, until she was so cold and tired that she fell asleep on a pile of nets and crab pots in a sheltered fishermen's alcove. The next morning, the storm had passed and all was calm again, but there was still no sign of the vessel. Heartbroken she went home and cried, refusing to believe her man was not coming back.
So gran, what happened – was it true – did he not come back???
“Well, when I was your age, there was this old lady. She would go down to the harbour every evening to wait for the fishing boats to come back in. Waiting and waiting, until one night she quietly slipped away, a little old lady, still clutching her bracelet with the heart of gold.”
My gran would lean forward and say in a hushed voice: now my little one . . .
“As the story goes, every year, on Valentine’s Day, the girl can be seen watching out over the sea, waiting for her lost love to return and, according to the legend, all the pebbles washed up on the beach on Valentine’s, are always heart shaped.”
At that point, my pop would always mumble something in patois about ‘la bànque au tchoeurs’, the beach of hearts, as well as the fact that it was getting near teatime. My gran would return to her chores, while I snuggled up to my pop for more cookies.
Anyway, apart from those ancient stories, my gran also taught me about seaweed and how it could be used in skincare. As such, she continues to inspire me each and every day, and without her, Maiiro would never have been born. It’s just such a shame I can’t cook like she did . . . .
Happy Valentine’s Day!
À la perchoine